We’re thrilled to bring you a sneak peek of Sacha Z. Scoblic’s memoir, Unwasted: My Lush Sobriety (Citadel Press). Unlike most “alcoholism” memoirs, which focus on the descent, Scoblic navigates the tricky territory of pulling herself up after her drinking days are done. How to craft a meaningful (and fun!) life without alcohol?
The following excerpt is taken from Chapter 4, Drinks for Drunks (A Field Guide to the Sobriety Wilderness):
“It’s not safe outside. The city—any city—is littered with my drug of choice…suddenly you realize that everything is a bar now: the coffee bar, the frozen-yogurt bar, the chocolate bar, the pizza bar—and there is nowhere left to run except straight to the dive liquor store that sells the hard stuff with no bullshit on the side, where the only thing that separates you from feeling normal is a thin brown-paper bag and the time it takes you to walk home.
In other words, you can’t just leave the house sober and hope for the best; you have to be armed…
I wasn’t ready to enter a bar and even had strong mixed feelings about most sit-down restaurants. Walking home from work had come to seem like running an alcoholic gauntlet. Mainly, I just stayed home, snug and indoors—practicing my overeating and Internet shopping.
I was feeling self-hating and grumpy at six months sober when Joanna asked me to her house for a dinner party. What better time to take another stab at a social life? I was suffering from such an acute case of cabin fever that I decided to say yes to the invitation instead of squinting my eyes and wondering, What does she really want from me? Peter and I set out for Joanna and her husband, Elliott’s house with carefully calibrated expectations (It may be hard, but don’t be opposed to having a good time) and flowers (When you can’t bring a bottle of wine for your host, bring the gift of allergens!). Still, within moments of our arrival, just after the first awful question had been asked—“What can I get you to drink?”—I came to a sudden and horrible conclusion: People hate alcoholics.
It’s not that I expect special treatment. But, if you invite me over for dinner, maybe buy some club soda—or Diet Coke. I don’t expect a refrigerator full of hundreds of flavors of Snapple, sodas in every hue, or novelty beverages of all stripes, but something other than water would be nice. There was nothing worse than when Joanna turned to her guests with a flourish and listed our options: “We have wine, beer, whiskey, gin-and-tonics, or homemade tequila punch. Sacha, can I get you some water?” She might as well have said, “I have spent hundreds of dollars on exciting beverages for all of my guests but you, Sacha. You, however, may have this lead-based city water I found coming out of the tap in my bathroom sink.” Honestly, she wouldn’t serve venison to her vegetarian friends, would she? Or let her vegan guest eat the peas while everyone else sank their teeth into prime rib and bacon-infused mashed potatoes?
Already seething, I pulled the baguette and cheese board to my side of the table and gave Joanna’s other guests, a schoolteacher and a lawyer, sidelong dirty looks when they reached for a piece. Don’t even think about it. Cheese is my cocktail, bitch! Drink your tequila punch and leave me alone! I ate my bread and water—like a prisoner!—while the others drank their spirits. Little did I know, the worst was yet to come: “Dinner!” sang Joanna from the kitchen. “Coq au vin!” Well, fuck me.
Sacha Z. Scoblic is a Washington, DC-based journalist, whose work has appeared in The New Republic, The Guardian, and Reader’s Digest. Scoblic has also contributed to the Proof blog at The New York Times. You can find her on twitter at sachaZscoblic.